Live Review: Philadelphia Grand Jury + High-tails + Vigilantes – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (24.10.15)

Reunions are bittersweet, often synonymous with transience and hinting at the struggles of times past. Although when Philadelphia Grand Jury – better known to most as the Philly Jays – rolled into town as part of their first official tour in years, the Sydney trio’s cult following couldn’t help but flock to Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory.

To get the party (that the Philly Jays’ famously don’t want) started, Sydney electro-pop duo Vigilantes took the stage. Opening with an energetic, fuzz-laden track, the duo snapped the modest mob of early birds to attention. With Angela Ford taking vocal and synth duties and Dave Jenkins on guitar, Vigilantes relied on backing tracks to bring their songs to life – a less engaging performance as a consequence. Their brand of electro-pop wasn’t game-changing, but the elements of interesting and engaging music were all there, ready to be assembled.

Tour-mates High-tails strutted up to the proverbial plate next, jumping into a fizzing number to announce themselves. Immediately, drummer Toby Davis impressed with his confident playing style and feel, later proving to be the standout member of the Sydney quartet. Frontman Nicholas Griffith’s Mondrian-inspired playsuit was enough to draw the eyes of the crowd, but his vocals left a generous amount to be desired, with the group’s often well-constructed melodies on record lost in translation live on stage. Nonetheless, the singles “Bending Over Backwards” and particularly “Information” were instrumentally strong, proving the group have plenty of talent in them.

Once the Art Factory was packed in, lights dimmed and room suitably smoked through, Philadelphia Grand Jury unleashed the raucous “Ready To Roll” to open their set. Immediately it was clear that the trio were thrilled to be performing together for their home crowd, with their unmistakable chemistry sparked once more.

Individually, the endearing and enduring trademarks were all there, starting from Berkfinger’s pre-recorded interval banter, which never ceases to be entertaining. MC Bad Genius’ inimitable swagger was encapsulating as he seamlessly flicked between bass, keys, and even occasionally guitar. Bad Genius, AKA Joel Beeson, also showed his knack for holding long-and-strong poses, ranging from a maniacal point-and-stare to the equally maniacal eyeballing of the audience during the hit “I’m Going To Kill You”, as if searching for his next victim. Meanwhile, Dan W. Sweat’s infectious grin never left his face, and his drumming was appropriately tight.

As the set progressed, so too did the Philly Jays’ energy. Never one to leave the fourth wall intact, during “The Good News” Berkfinger took the cue of an eagerly gyrating dance floor to relocate himself, his guitar and his mic stand amongst the crowd. This soon segued into their traditional set closer “I Don’t Want To Party”, and the irony was surely not lost on any of those present. Quickly announcing their encore via backing track, the trio finished with fan favourite “Save Our Town” and the boisterous cover of Jay Z’s “99 Problems”.

As the audience milled about when all was said and done, there was a tangible hopefulness in the air, as if maybe this wasn’t just a one off tour for the Philadelphia Grand Jury. Transience is passé, anyway.


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